October 27 to November 3, 2001
By Mary and Vincent N. Finelli
"It's more than a cruise, it's the Love Boat." This 21st
cruise for us (in the past five years), had a full moon and since we
had cruised twice on its sister ship, the Grand Princess, there
was also a sense of dejà vu as we spent an excellent
week aboard the beautiful new Golden Princess.
She was built by Fincantieri
Shipyards, Monfalcone, Italy and is the 6050th ship launched by this
venerable company. Her Port of Registry is Hamilton, Bermuda.
The Golden has a gross tonnage of 109,000; a length of 951 feet;
breadth of 118 feet (not Panamax); her cruising speed is 22.5 knots
and a passenger capacity of 2,600 (this cruise had approximately
2,500) with a crew of 1,150.
Princess has made these two sister
ships distinctive through the use of a rear spoiler, which houses the
Skywalkers Night Club--a gorgeous two tiered room with surround view
(and an automatic moving sidewalk to reach the club). This is the
closest place to heaven on the ship and an excellent place for reading
and ocean watching during the day, and disco dancing at night.
The first two cruising days were
rainy, but port days were sunny. The last two days we rode the high
seas caused by Hurricane Michele. There was a bit of movement and we
saw "barf bags" placed at every elevator, but fortunately we
never saw anyone in need of them. They were just precautionary.
Captain Bernard Warner is an excellent skipper, who treated us to a
lovely sail away from St. Thomas, USVI on the Bridge--6:00 pm, at
dusk, we watched the sunset and then the lights of St. Thomas came on
and twinkled as we departed. This was a fabulous first time experience
We normally embark at noon, but this time, because of a family
obligation, we arrived at Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale at 3:30 pm,
when most of the passengers had already boarded. The shore crew was
closing up and we had no wait! There were no curb side attendants
left, so Mary had to push the wheelchair on board by herself. We also
missed the Welcome Aboard Buffet, but judging from those we had during
the week, our old friend Executive Chef Antonio Cereda (14 years with
Princess Lines) out does all others and surprises the passengers with
delectable culinary masterpieces. When we saw that he had moved
over from the Grand Princess, we knew that we were in for a
week of dining pleasure... Complimenti Antonio, you've
THE SHIP'S PUBLIC AREAS
As passengers board on Plaza Deck 5 (first of the three lower decks of
public rooms), they enter the three deck high Grand Plaza (though not
as grand in size as we have seen in some other mega/giga ships), yet
it is a very lovely and stylish area with lots of mosaics, especially
a really nice round one on the floor of the atrium. Glass cage
elevators with truly unique fern and wildlife walls face the Plaza.
Here also you will find a nice, larger than life bronze sculpture by
George Kerish called "Standing Woman." Deck 5 has the
reception desks, the library, card room, Bernini Dining Room, and the
art galleries (with one of the most extensive collections afloat (and
art auctions boasting 85% off).
Fiesta Deck 6 has a second
reception area, boutiques, the Atlantis Casino (almost exactly like
the casino on the Grand with 3D aquariums on the walls. Mid ship is
the Donatello Dining Room, the ship's galley and aft is the Canaletto
Dining Room, while forward is the Princess Theater.
Promenade Deck 7 has boutiques, the
Desert Rose Restaurant (Southwestern/ Mexican), Explorer and Wheel
house Bars, Sabatini's upscale restaurant, the photo shop and aft is
the Vista Lounge, where Captain Warner hosted the Captain's Club
Repeater's cocktail party. This room has tiered seating and a spacious
On decks 8 through 12 and 14 forward
are cabins, mostly with balconies. There are 21 wheelchair accessible
cabins: 14 with balcony, 6 inside, and 1 suite.
Decks 14 through 17 are again
Lido Deck 14 has Mermaid's Tail, Trident Grill, Prego Pizza,
Neptune's Reef and Pool and The Conservatory with the Calypso Pool,
which sports the Oxford Dipper, unique to Princess. This lift allows
wheelchair bound passengers to be lowered into the pool and gives them
the joy of swimming. The Conservatory has a retractable roof
with eight functional columns supporting it, which are decorated with
mosaics of fish. Very nice! Aft, on Lido deck, are the Horizon Court
(buffet), the Horizon Terrace and the Outrigger Bar (a beautiful
outdoor setting overlooking the ship's wake).
Sun Deck 15 has the Lap Current Pool,
Lotus Spa and Beauty Parlor, Aerobics and Gymnasium Exercise Rooms.
Also on this deck and on 16 there are the Off Limits (Teen Ctr.) and
the Fun Zone (Children Ctr.).
Sports Deck 16, in addition to the
Kids and Teen Centers, has a Jogging Track, Center Basketball Court,
and, at mid ship, Shuffle Board and other deck games. This ship has
something for everyone.
FOOD AND SERVICE
Princess offers Personal Choice Dining which gives passengers the
freedom and opportunity to dine in varied venues with different menus
and at flexible times. No longer are passengers rushed on port days to
meet a rigid dining schedule. We are happy with the Personal Choice
system and hope other cruise lines will adopt it. Two of the
restaurants offer Personal Choice, the Donatello and the Bernini from
5:30 pm to 10:00 pm. The third restaurant, the Canaletto dining room
still has the traditional main (6:15 pm) and late seating (8:45 pm)
All three of these formal restaurants
use the same menu, and are beautified by murals and pictures evoking
the work of the famous artists for which they are named. There are
many beautiful tables by the windows. Chef Antonio Cereda offers the
passengers wonderfully prepared and plated food always fresh and
palatable. We feel he is the best chef we have encountered afloat. His
pasta sauces are authentic. The menu is vast with many choices for
appetizers (some of our favorites are fried calamari, the
avocado boat filled with shrimp and seafood, prosciutto and
melon, escargot, and small portions of pastas made available as
appetizers). The soups were excellent including the oriental ones,
minestrone and the pumpkin one served for Halloween. Salads aboard the
Golden were especially fresh and crispy (Caesar is available every
day, but there were excellent combinations of fruit, nuts and
vegetable salads, Belgian Endive and roasted zucchini, eggplant and
red peppers, etc). Breads and breadsticks were fresh, hot and varied.
At dinner there were five or six
entrees to choose from in addition to a list of constant dishes always
available: steak, chicken and the delicious Fettuccini Alfredo,
fresh made noodles served in a basket made of Parmiggiano Reggiano
cheese. Also Chef Cereda prepared delicious Risotto with Porcini
mushrooms, Rollè of eggplant and angel hair pasta and, on
Halloween night, potato gnocchi with pumpkin; what a treat!
Aaaah! The desserts were out of this
world both in presentation and flavor. The pastry chef, Franco
Gentile is a wizard; he made chocolate do things that we had only
dreamt about. Vincent's favorite Swan Puffs were tiny, delicate and
presented floating on a heart shaped pond of melted chocolate.
Chef Gentile's baskets of chocolate and pulled caramel were decorated
with butterflies so light that they seemed to float. Bravo Franco!
Sabatini's upscale restaurant charges
$15 per person. Make reservations as soon as you board, since it fills
quickly. Sabatini's Supervisor Luigi Clesceri makes this three hour
dining experience unforgettable; if you are really nice, Luigi will
treat you to an after dinner liquor Limoncella (and his recipe). We
had a nice table for two by the window with a view of the full moon
rising: This is cruising, this is living! The antipasto here is
excellent with freshly sliced prosciutto, porcini mushrooms,
and a superb Pizza Margarita made by Antonio (he also makes the pizza
at Prego's, Lido Deck). Our waiter Augusto was excellent.
Princess has an Afternoon Tea served
in the Donatello Restaurant from 3:30 to 4:30 pm. There are gloved
waiters offering hot scones with clotted cream and preserves and
delicate tea sandwiches. Don't miss it.
The 24 Hour food service is as
The Horizon Court is open from 4:00 am to 11:00 pm.
Trident Grill and Prego Pizza is open from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.
The Bistro is open from 11:00 pm to 4:00 am.
There is also 24 hour Room Service (we usually have breakfast from
room service, linen napkins and silverware).
Service aboard the Golden is top
notch under the direction of Maitre d' Giuseppe Gelmini (Italy) whose
background includes two of London's best Hotels, the Dorchester
and the Savoy. He knows how to pamper people and he has taught his
staff well. Our head waiter Sandro Ranieri (Italy) was very attentive
and kept a close eye on the waiters. We were served excellently by
waiter Ricardo De Guia (Philippines) and ass't waiter Luciano Patrasou
Of course service depends on a great
leader, which Golden has in Nigel Stewart, Passenger Services
Director, with whom we had a nice chat. He patiently provided answers
to all of our questions. Thank you Nigel.
Our Baja Deck 11, wheelchair accessible Cabin B302 is spacious and
beautiful. Entering, on the left is a triple armoire (with personal
safe, shelves and wooden hangers). Then there is a wall unit with TV,
refrigerator, and then a long desk/vanity with lighted mirror and hair
dryer. Entering, on the right is a large bathroom with a 5'X5' shower,
safety rails all around and handy. The there is a double dresser with
dimmer lamp, a king size bed, and another double dresser with dimmer
lamp. The wall behind the bed is mirrored and there are two
upholstered barrel chairs. The sliding glass door leads to a balcony
(60 sq. ft.) with room for a table, stool, two chairs and a chaise,
which Vincent used extensively, especially on sunny days. The
spectacular view of sun rise among interesting cloud formations on the
morning of arrival to St. Maarten, with all of the splendor of
changing colors from fiery red clouds to the brilliant golden rays and
pastel blue sky, is a sight to remember: Another dose of pure pleasure
to our eyes and minds to keep our "addiction to cruising"
This cabin, with almond cabinets,
maple wood trim, and linens and carpets of blue, peach and salmon, was
crisp in its newness and quite spacious.
The in cabin TV offered several
satellite channels, such as CNN, ESPN, TNT, Discovery, and a Financial
News channel, along with several movies, repeated during the week, and
the regular ship's channels showing nautical data, shore excursion
information, taped shows and a live cam from the bridge. The
entertainment and TV guide available in the cabin was very clear and
Cruise Director Alastair Greener (England) with his varied background
and managerial expertise kept the ship's routine working with clock
like precision. The Cruise Staff was everywhere, leading everything
from Trivia Quizzes, Bingo, Basketball, Ping Pong (Paddle tennis) and
Golf (both Virtual and Real Rolling greens) to Sail Away Parties. This
ship has it all.
The shows were on a par with those of
other cruise lines. The headliners "Welcome Aboard
Showtime," "Lights, Camera Action" and "Words and
Music," featuring Hunter Gerard, Joseph Hale, Susan Orrell and
Tiffany Hale are the usual Las Vegas style shows--the dancers were
bouncy, but the truly notable performers were the following:
1. Maestro Maurizio, a
singer/musician, performed in both the Promenade Lounge (packed) and
the Explorer's Lounge (in concert). He sang many songs from around the
world, but the show stoppers were Andrea Bocelli's "Con Te
Partirò" and Modugno's "Volare" with
2. Acrobat/Comic Uber Rossi was
superb and his contortions were unbelievable.
3. The Magic and Illusion Spectacular
show by Gaetano was excellent.
ACTIVITIES AND PORTS
In addition to previously mentioned activities there is also the Lotus
Spa and Fitness center. Vincent tried some of the equipment and liked
the set up. Many cruisers enjoyed the art gallery as we did. This
seven day cruise starts with two sea days, then two port days, a sea
day and a final port day and then return to Ft. Lauderdale.
Ports of Call:
1. St. Maarten (7:00 am to 6:00 pm) Capital of the Dutch Leeward
Island Group is divided between Dutch and French rule. It presents a
unique opportunity for cruisers to enjoy two international cultures.
There are several shore excursions: 1. Beach and Shopping ($25); 2.
Mt. Bike Adventure ($69); 3. Hidden Forest Hiking ($79); 4.
"America's Cup Regatta" ($82).
2. St. Thomas, US Virgin Island
(6:00 am to 6:00 pm) This lovely island has it all--beaches and
shopping (especially Mr. Tablecloth with the best linens and prices
available). There are three tours available: 1. Sailboat & Snorkel
($49); 2. New Waves Snorkeling ($69); 3. Wild Thing Around St. Thomas
($66). This port also has taxis available at the pier and for only $3
you can go downtown for shopping, or you can also arrange for a
private island tour; however, always remember to fix the price and the
3. Princess Cays (8:30 am to 3:00
pm). The ship gives a Barbecue & Buffet ashore from 11:30 to 1:00
pm. There is tendering ashore, so the physically challenged may
encounter problems if the sea is choppy.
After a great cruise there is very little to suggest. However, there
is always room for improvement until perfection is achieved. The
following suggestions are about minor things which can be easily
1. We arrived at the peer at 3:30 pm
and did not find any wheelchair assistance for boarding. This was
unexpected since boarding time was until 4:00 pm and helping staff had
already disappeared. What a difference from our embarkation experience
on the Grand, six months ago, when we were escorted from the front of
the terminal all the way to our stateroom, albeit at noon. We suggest
that Princess Lines make available staff personnel to help those in
need during embarkation until the gangways are closed.
2. The drinking water in the dining
rooms, as well as the juices, cold drinks and ice cubes has a strong
chlorine smell, more so that we experienced on other ships. We suggest
that Princess Lines install water filters at the various distribution
points, where needed.
3. A problem in common with some
other ships is the type of pasta used aboard, not the freshly
made one, but rather the pre packaged one. We noticed that even though
the chef has tried to cook the pasta al dente, it always tastes
starchy and gluey. We believe that the fault is in the quality of the
pasta. It is possible that several cruise lines use the same pasta
supplier, thus, the problem is rather common. Pasta is not an
expensive ingredient, thus for a few cents more per pound, the chef
can achieve better tasting pasta dishes. As pasta lovers we can attest
that the great sauces of Chef Cereda deserve a better pasta, such as
La Molisana, Barilla, Colavita or some other good durum wheat pasta,
possibly imported from Italy, the cradle of pasta lovers.
We will surely cruise with Golden
Princess and other Princess ships again; however, our next cruise
will be on the new RCI Adventure of the Seas on 12/9/01. We are
addicted cruisers who have never had a bad cruise, but we'll always be
looking for the perfect one.
of Princess Cruises